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Bathrooms with a view

By Charlie Earthman, Daily Texan, Date 12/11/1989

How many times have you read the old and molding restroom rhyme beginning, "Those who write on bathroom walls ..." or "For a good time, call ..."? You know, the ones that appear in the stalls of every Dairy Queen bathroom in the country.

For the vulgar majority of the bathroom graffiti in the nation, intellect does not reign supreme.

However, in the clubs and bars in the city of Austin, things are done a little differently.

Bathrooms have become more than just a necessity of life, but rather a sort of reflection of society, with graffiti ranging from simple hygienic rituals to satiric political commentary mixed with passionate artistic expression.

Of course, we are talking about bars, and it would be a gross understatement to say that Austin doesn't possess its own share of what we'll refer to as, say ... "dick" jokes. It does.

However, due to space con/-straints and vulgarity considerations, we'll overlook this massive segment of Austin graffiti, concentrating on the finer aspects of restroom expression (besides, I don't know what the words "snizz" and "cooze" mean).

Right about now, broken-hearted lovers of vulgarity are probably asking, "what's left?"

Well, for one, bathroom walls have become one of the largest and strongest bastions of anonymous free speech around.

Where else might you find a Marxist criticism of capitalism next to advertisements for the best lay in town? Satiric social commentary abounds on the walls of many restrooms around town.

Quackenbush's women write "Get damned today! By the god of your choice," while the Hole in the Wall men scribble "Austin Police wuz hear."

Word play is always popular with bathroom graffiti artists. Favorites include, "Urine the money" at the Hole in the Wall and Yucatan Dan's "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her drink."

Of course, not all bathroom graffiti exactly make, well ... sense. You know the kind. They're the ones you read 10 times just because they're so weird.

This category would include Quackenbush's "Safety pup is the antichrist" as well as the Cannibal Club's one-eyed monster smoking a cigarette believed to contain Elvis Presley's toenails, with a subsequent caption reading, "R. Malice has just flushed himself down the toilet to earthquake land." Definitely not the type of stuff a drunken barfly might understand.

However, it is sometimes these seemingly random bits of thought that generate the most interest and continuity.

A Texas Chili Parlor female graffitist points out, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle," which is responded to with, "I can think of a lot more things to do with a man than a fish can do with a bicycle." This is followed by, "Oh yeah? Like what?" being finally put to rest with, "I think someone's missing the point."

One of the most fascinating aspects of Austin's bathrooms is the amount of surrealistic artwork that appears on the walls. The best example is the rather large monster drawn on the south wall of the Hole in the Wall men's room. The creature covers almost half the entire wall, reaching to heights that even standing on the toilet seat wouldn't reach.

Similarly, both the old side of Maggie Mae's and Quackenbush's men's rooms boast rather large eyeball drawings guaranteed to make you nervous.

The most colorful art can be found at Mercado Caribe, where the club's reggae image definitely comes off in the painted Caribbean decor of the bathroom. The women are treated to an ominous silver moon in a black sky as well as a fiery sun setting on the ocean, while the men enjoy circling palm trees interlaced with dark green and red vegetation.

Poetry has similarly found its way onto the walls of Austin's restrooms.

Lengthy, deep and meaningful poetry is becoming increasingly common. For example, women at the Hole in the Wall can read about a "silver sun shining on the sea reflecting off the flying fish ..." How's that for bathroom talk?

In additon to the always interesting graffiti, the increasing presence of various functional items painfully demonstrates that all bathrooms in Austin are not created equal. In this world of big business bathrooms, condom machines reign supreme, and for good reason. In today's world, condoms are a necessity for safe sex.

Fortunately, most of Austin's night spots have seen the light and installed these machines, but some have not. Similarly, although many are, not all of Austin's bathrooms are equipped for handicapped patrons - a stipulation that has been long overdue.

Interestingly, the difference between masculine and feminine tastes is reflected in the composition of some of the bathrooms on and around Sixth Street, most notably at 606. Both male and female restrooms are immaculate, and these people pay great attention to detail. For one, the liquid soap in the ladies' room is a nice pink, while the soap for masculine patrons is clear. Although pink and clear are both common colors for liquid soap, why the difference?

The condom machines are a different story.

Women at 606 can purchase the Lady Triom condom, choosing either contoured or non-contoured from the pink machine while the manly men can use their quarters to purchase Savage Bliss, the condom with "35 stimulating ridges." You be the judge.

The important point here is that bathrooms perform other functions in addition to being an excellent medium for graffiti (and of course, housing toilets).

So the next time you find yourself in a seemingly disgusting bathroom, simply glance up at the walls, remembering what one insightful philosopher at the Texas Chili Parlor believes:

"Beware of graffiti - once you read it, you really are changed."


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